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Music Review: The Ramblers – Getting There

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I'm trying to remember when it was. It was definitely during a pop music fad that involved a lot of synthesizers and other electrical accoutrements. Maybe it was the New Wave era…or maybe when The Prodigy hit it big. All I know is that I caught this interview with a musician who was proclaiming that acoustic instruments were a thing of the past. The guitar and its cohorts were, supposedly, past their prime.

Did you notice that I can't remember that musician and his groundbreaking band? I'm usually pretty good at that kind of trivia. Oops, I guess somebody was wrong. I'm not here to dump on electronic music. Heck, I own a bunch of it. The point is that whatever instruments are in your hands, you've got to impart some humanity with them.

This is why my ears are sure that roots music will never die. Whether it's blues, jazz, or some other more elemental music, it's where we came from. The music of the day can take on many forms, including today's auto-tuned, ProTools-tweezed "product," but it can't erase the natural draw of popular music's more basic forms. That's why a guitar plugged straight into an amplifier or a simple arpeggiated piano chord can communicate so much more than five minutes of synthetic throb.

And that's what makes The Ramblers so great. Songs of struggle, love, lust and regret. No pretense involved. A heartfelt tribute to the joy of music ("Give Me Music") rides alongside a pensive ballad of life's uphill battles — "…I might just write my masterpiece, if I could only get out of bed" — who hasn't felt that?

Yeah, but what do they sound like? Like a rock band who knows their history. There are driving rockers like "Letter To Elissa" and the opening title track (with some terrific slide guitar), funky workouts (especially "Matter of Fact"), and country-ish tunes like "Can't Take Back A Kiss" and "These Blues Weren't Meant To Survive." There are even shades of the E Street Band that surface when Scott Stein's piano and keyboards accent things just the right way. It's no wonder that Levon Helm brought them in as his support act.

I'd be willing to bet that a group of ten reviewers would come up with ten different labels for this band. I'm hearing an extended version of Little Feat…with a touch of Bruce, and Tom Petty, and The Band, and some more alt.country influences, and, and, and….

Look, just grab yourself a copy of Getting There and crank up "Leave A Letter Behind." That opening riff coming out of Jeremiah Birnbaum's guitar? Honestly, that's all you need to hear.

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About Mark Saleski